Campus News

Oberlin College Selects Highly Accomplished Library Director and Book Scholar Valerie Hotchkiss as Director of Libraries

August 16, 2021

Communications Staff

Valerie Hotchkiss
Valerie Hotchkiss is the new Azariah S. Root Director of Libraries.
Photo credit: John Russell/Vanderbilt University

After a national search, Valerie Hotchkiss has been appointed the Azariah S. Root Director of Libraries. 

For the past five years, Hotchkiss served as university librarian at Vanderbilt University. Prior to that, she led Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois. In all these roles, she has championed issues of access, public programming, and curricular connections.

Under her leadership at Vanderbilt, the university’s libraries rose an unprecedented 22 places in national rankings. At all three institutions she has led, Hotchkiss has focused on making collections more accessible through cataloging and digitization projects and by expanding public outreach. She has also worked closely with faculty to incorporate library resources and services into as many classes as possible. She believes that a commitment to staff development was key to success in these libraries. 

“We are thrilled that Valerie has chosen to bring her expertise in and passion for libraries to Oberlin College,” says Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka. “In the libraries she has directed, Hotchkiss has broken new ground in digital scholarship, renovated facilities, and has been a very successful fundraiser. She has deep appreciation for the essential role of libraries for a liberal arts education, and is a strong proponent of teaching with primary sources. Bill Quillen, Dean of the Conservatory of Music, and I are deeply grateful to the Library Director Search Committee, chaired by Associate Dean Laura Baudot, for their excellent work.”

Baudot says Hotchkiss is a visionary leader, scholar, and author who rose to the top of an exceptionally strong selection of candidates. “Valerie’s extraordinary expertise and leadership will enhance and elevate the national reputation of our libraries.”

In addition to leading the Vanderbilt Libraries, Hotchkiss served as professor of English at Vanderbilt. She earned a bachelor’s in classics at the University of Cincinnati (which awarded her a distinguished alumna award), a master’s in library science, and a Ph.D in medieval studies at Yale University. She is the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles on medieval cultural history, women's studies, and topics on the history of books and printing, including Clothes Make the Man: Female Transvestism in Medieval Europe (Routledge Press), Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition (Yale University Press), and English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton (University of Illinois Press), as well as the digital edition series Women in Print.

“Valerie has the acuity necessary to lead Oberlin’s libraries during a time of unprecedented challenges in higher education,” says Dean Quillen. “Her vision and creativity are transformative, and I look forward to collaborating with her.”

Hotchkiss says she is excited for the opportunity to work with the Oberlin College Libraries starting this Fall. “Oberlin libraries have so many strengths: the expert library staff, great spaces, and devoted students, professors, alumni, and friends who care deeply about the work of the library and its place in the larger educational mission.”

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